Category Archives: Mental Health

Two Sets of Directions and Flippy

Yesterday, I had to go get cups for my second job at Caribou Coffee, because we were running out of large iced cups, and, while you wouldn’t expect to in a place like Minnesota in January, we use a lot of large iced cups. Minnesotans love their cold brew. I had never been to the Caribou Coffee I needed to go, because it is located on the opposite side of the Twin Cities from where I live, and I have no need to ever go there, except to get cups. Normally, I would just plop that address into my iPhone Apple Maps and get there and back with no problem. I panicked for a quick minute, then I used the computer in our weird little backroom, dish room, office area and found the Caribou that had cups and used google maps to find the easiest route. Then I wrote the route out on paper, like I used to write motorcycle routes on my arm in Sharpie marker. Yes, I rode my motorcycle all the way to Florida and back and all the way to Door County and back with only directions in Sharpie marker on my arm. Needless to say, I made it from my Caribou to the Caribou 30 minutes away without incident.

Today, I went to my favorite donut shop, Glam Dolls for breakfast. I navigated my way there with no problem, but they were closed for an extended New Year’s vacation. I was incredibly sad, but my eventual goal was to end up in Roseville, so I could visit my friends at Apple, and so I could grade my students’ work before finishing my quarter three planning after work tomorrow and Friday. As I (very sadly) pulled away from Glam Dolls, I said to myself, good luck getting to Roseville! MNDOT has rerouted the entrance onto 35W from I-94, where I used to use Franklin Street and then cross 5 lanes of traffic on I-94 to exit onto 35W North, and I had to fend for myself, so I just stayed on I-94, thinking that I would eventually bump into something familiar. Just as I had the thought that I might have to stay on I-94 until it merged onto 52, which is way out of the way, exit signs for 280 started popping up, and I vaguely remembered Jack telling me that’s how he gets from where we live to Roseville, so I took the exit and hoped for the best. I am proud to report that I made it to my usual Starbucks without any problems.

*

After a week of being with Flippy (this is what my lovely flip phone will be affectionately called from here on out), I have decided that intentionality is one side effect of flip phone use. Everything I do with Flippy is very intentional. Texts take three to four times as long to write, so I ask myself if I really need to say what I am about to say. Is what I am about to type really worth all of the tapping and strange navigation on the phone? I am much more thoughtful about what I put out there, because what I put out there takes more work. Another thing about being intentional is that I can’t just look things up on a whim, because I have to be near my computer. I wondered, this morning at 4:38 when I woke up for the first time—when is the first official day of baseball season? Thursday, March 28 if you need to know— and normally I would’ve grabbed my phone, looked it up, and gone down a rabbit hole of looking at things. Instead, I wondered it, said to myself, “Look that up later, Self,” and then went back to sleep for another hour or so.

Finally, I am finding that this experiment is doing just what I had hoped. Because texting is so labor intensive, I have made more phone calls to people in the past week than I have in probably the past year. I usually have three people who I call on a regular basis (and if you ask them, they will tell you it is very irregular): Bec, Merideth, and Amy. I rarely call anyone else. In the past week, I’ve talked with my parents (twice), my brother (twice), Bec (several times), and a couple of other people. Already, this feels like the best thing that’s happened to me in a while.

 

Kyocera Cadence; DK Standrick

This morning I tried to activate my new phone, but it didn’t work when I tried to follow Verizon’s instructions on their website, so I called and got help from a very nice and knowledgeable woman who activated it with little to no difficulty.

I am nervously excited.

In a nostalgic moment, I was excited to text with the old key pad, but that excitement quickly wore off when I realized how labor intensive texting like that can be. I figure this will just force me to call people more frequently, since I won’t want to type out long messages one letter (up to four clicks) at a time. Here’s a quick “I’m sorry” to all of those people who, like me, hate to talk on the phone because texting is so much easier.

I can already feel the need for nearly constant digital contact with people kind of sliding away, which is the goal of this whole thing anyway, but I didn’t figure it would happen so quickly. Before when I have quit social media, I got sucked back in pretty quickly, but social media is more labor intensive on a computer than a smart device, so I may have saved myself that temptation this round.

At any rate, I am looking forward to spending my time reading, running, writing, and even watching TV or movies, instead of scrolling. I am really focusing on just doing one thing at a time and giving that one thing my undivided attention. Right now, I am writing. The TV is off, the phone is in my pocket, and I am focused.

I guess my big goal with this is to get back to where I was ten years ago where I can focus, I can remember, and I can relish the time I spend with others. I don’t like my presence with others being split between the screen and the person, and I, personally, haven’t been able to curb that need for digital connectedness without this drastic measure.

Tuesday, January 1 is the real start date, but by then I’ll be  five days off of social media and three days on the flippy, so I’ll have a good head start.

I’m ready.

I’m nervously excited.

*

This morning as I was reading the News App on my iPhone, before I activated the new phone, I ran across a pretty sweet little journal called Trail and Kale, and apparently they started in 2012 when the founders began trail running as a way to stay fit.

I love their site’s format and the way it’s so easy to navigate. The things you’d most like to read have their own categories, then there is an everything category. For example, when you click on “Interviews,” you can see “Elite Runners” or “All Interviews.”

Of course, nothing a magazine, website, or other forum can do to make things easier to find, helps when I am looking for content that I clearly found in another place. Just before I started writing this, I was thinking about an article about Darbykai (or DK) Standrick in Canadian Trail Running, and I could have sworn it was in Trail and Kale, so I spent half an hour looking for it there.

But, it wasn’t in Trail and Kale, so here I am now, explaining that silliness to you instead of making my point, which is that most elite athletes now have a social media presence. In fact, that’s how I know about most of the amazing trail runners I know about, but Standrick has no social media presence, which is what interested me about her.

Standrick is out there doing her own thing, and kicking ass at it, and not sounding her own horn. Her running philosophy seems to be a good one as well: “Run when you want. Run when you don’t want with the option of going home. Try and go fast sometimes and try not to sweat other times.” I think I may try to implement that approach; run when I want, run when I don’t, lay low, and figure out who I am again. And again. And again.

If there’s a theme to my life, it is figuring out who I am over and over again. Here’s to every day being the best day.

A Christmas Run: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love

This morning I woke up at 5:08 CST and couldn’t fall back to sleep. I decided to just get up, unlike yesterday when I stayed in bed for two hours trying to fall back to sleep. I went to the bathroom and weighed myself. Yep, still a fat and sassy 250 pounds.

I ambled downstairs in my running attire and found my shoes, hat, headlamp, and gloves right by the door where I left them on Sunday. Pudge, the grey cat, helped me as I laced up my shoes and visualized my run, which was going to be a very short one mile in the crisp 17º air. I love it when I walk out the door and can see my breath in the light of my headlamp. That’s the perfect way for me to start my day.

For some reason, I think I ran too close to the edge of the road; I couldn’t get good footing to go very fast, which turned out to be okay, because my lungs weren’t really happy to be doing what I asked them to do, and they immediately (this is a new thing) started spasming. Breathing got difficult really fast, when usually my asthmatic response doesn’t start until I stop running. “Well, this is a fun little adventure,” I thought to myself, so I slowed way down and took almost 17 minutes to finish that one mile.

It was a beautiful mile, so I am fine with the slowness of it, but I’d like to just be able to go out and knock out 6 or 7 miles with no problem, like I could a few years ago before I stopped running regularly, and before I let depression and Facebook control my life. This is why my one resolution is to get my life back. I want to be able to just go run. Run a trail, run the streets, or set the treadmill (gross) to a speed faster than most people walk.

On January 12, I will run my favorite race, and this year I was hoping to run the 13.1 distance instead of the 6.55, but it looks like my goal is shifting to simply completing the 6.55 in less time than it took me last year. I am still too slow to be allowed to enter the second lap of the 13.1 distance, but I will be there next year (so she has said for five years or so?). Running for me is about setting goals, and maybe achieving them, and not being too hard on myself if I don’t, because running is about joy for me.

But, let me return to the title of my post, a Christmas run.

My favorite days to run are on holidays. The town is quiet, no one is awake, and everything is darker for longer than usual. I love to run along and watch the town come alive in the morning. Since I prefer out and back routes, on the way out, every house is dark, but on the way back (on a longer than one mile route), I get to see people waking up and maybe one light is on in the house, or maybe a guy wearing a robe comes out to get the paper, or maybe I can see in the kitchen window (if it faces the road) where a woman is getting the coffee pot going.

But on holidays, especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, I can run much later and everything is so still for so long, it’s almost as if I am the only person here, like that bad Twilight Zone episode “Where Is Everybody?”. During those quiet moments, I get to meditate, sending positive energy out into every house, and I get to pray silently for each person in each house, and I can feel the goodness and beauty of everyone, even if I don’t know them.

Running on Christmas is something I’ve done for probably close to 10 years, and it’s something I want to continue to do. I desire to bring hope, peace, joy, and love to each house, even silently, as I run past. And I want to experience those things for myself and be able to give myself grace as I reflect on last year and forecast into next year.

Yesterday was beautiful. Today was beautiful. Tomorrow will be beautiful.

Flip Phone: Kicking My Social Media Addiction

I just ordered my new Kyocera Cadence LTE.

I ordered a flip phone.

To replace my iPhone. 

I am not yet quite sure how I feel about it. I have turned off my iPad and my Apple Watch, and I will turn off my iPhone, once my new phone arrives in the mail. I have this weird, deep, nervous pit in my stomach, which sounds really stupid when I write it down, but it’s true. Moving from working at Apple for three years, where I had to know the newest of the newest technology to make my living, to turning off all of my Apple devices except my computer, which I need for work (I just can’t bring myself to use a Chromebook), seems like a giant leap, but I am looking forward to reclaiming my life from the depths of social media and screen addiction. 

I’ve read a couple of articles which indicate that screen addiction, particularly social media addiction, stimulates and grows similar neural pathways as opioid addiction. I believe that assessment to be true. I’ve watched people in my life struggle with other addictions, and the hold that social media and my smart devices have on me resembles the hold of various substances in their lives. I don’t say this to minimize their struggle, but simply to highlight my own struggle with the screen. 

Over the past four for five years, I have tried countless ways to kick my screen habit: setting a goal of a month without social media, just using one social medium, only checking in the morning or night, cutting usage to an hour, or even only using my computer for it. I have had zero success in beating this addiction. 

If I am honest, in the past couple of years, I’ve become even more addicted, spending sometimes three or four hours a day on my phone when I should be doing just about anything else. “I should go for a run,” or I could just edit a few more pictures. “I should sketch something,” or I could just post a couple more things here on Twitter. “I should go cook some awesome food to give to the neighbors,” or I could share a couple more articles here on Facebook. Writing? Church? Exercise? Reading? Art? Preparation for class? Spending time with friends and family? Cooking? In my mind, of late, have any of these things been as important as posting just this one more thing on social media?

After an immense amount of soul-searching and asking what would have to change for me to be content with the direction my life is taking, I recognized that I needed to kick my addiction to social media, specifically Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I needed to stop measuring my life in likes, comments, and shares. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I am tired of not being joyful, because I am continually comparing myself to others, some of whom I have never met. I have the perfect opportunity to reset my technological world this semester by buying a flip phone and leaving all of my other devices in Minnesota when I leave for Indiana here in a couple of weeks. 

What in my life will have to change as a part of this experiment?

First, I recognized pretty quickly that I will have to start paying attention to where I am going. I will not have immediate access to GPS. I will be forced to regrow the maps that used to be in my head, and to grow new ones for the new places I will go. I’ll be forced to pay attention when I go somewhere, so I can get there again. I will also need to purchase some paper maps for cities where I visit frequently, like Indianapolis. And I will need to print directions to get some places. This is a bit scary for some reason, though it never scared me when I drove to Mexico in my early twenties with no GPS and no Apple Maps. 

Second, there are many places I go every day that have mobile apps, instead of cards. I’m thinking about my daily coffee stop, where I usually show my phone instead of using cash or a card, or when I check into LA Fitness with my phone instead of the card they gave me when I first registered with them. I suppose I’ll have to figure out where to get new cards and start using more cash payments. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even save some money in this whole thing. 

Third, I rely on being able to look up everything on Google. Who is that actor? What else was she in? What is this song? What was that one painting called? Where is that building located? Who made that sculpture? What is the name of that one state park? What time does that store open? Should I go to that restaurant? What time is that movie showing? What disease do I have if I have these symptoms? How old is Ruth Bader Ginsburg? What about Betty White? I mean, I Google pretty much everything these days. You probably do too. The sad part is that I used to actually retain information, but now I just Google it. 

Fourth, and probably most important for me, I take MANY photos, and I mean many. I probably take 10-20 photos every day, but the phone I purchased has a really bad camera. And I did that on purpose. For one year, I want to be real and present in everything I do. I just want to live and experience things, and I don’t want to be the person with camera. Don’t get me wrong, taking photos brings me a great amount of joy, but when I am out with my friends and they ask me to take pictures, sometimes it’s a lot of pressure to get the right shot, to make it look good, to edit it well, to make sure everyone has the right look on their face (let’s be honest, that’s a real challenge when some of you all are involved!), to make sure you didn’t get some random person in the background, to make sure you got all of the background, to ensure the composition is pleasing to the eye, and to be the person people rely on to capture the group memories. For a year, I just want to see what I see with my eyes and keep the memories in my head. 

Lastly, group messages and T9 texting. I don’t really think I need to say anything else about this one. 

I am excited about the prospect of breaking this addiction, and I am finally in the right headspace to leave some things behind, because they aren’t serving their intended purpose in my life. As they say, I’ve hit rock bottom a few times with my mental health in regards to comparing myself with others, so I’m ready to move on.

Here’s to a beautiful 2019.

When You Shoved a Desk at Me as I Walked Past You . . .

I didn’t punch you, like any of the teachers in any of the viral videos punched their students.

I didn’t punch you, because . . .

I am an adult, and adults are here on this earth to nurture and mentor young people, to teach you who you should become as an adult, not to teach you who you shouldn’t become. If I had hit you, I wouldn’t be nurturing you or mentoring you. Most importantly, your decision-making skills will not be fully developed for another 10 years. I cannot expect you to make choices like a mentally-well adult, because you are a middle schooler.

I want, more than anything, for you to grow into a wonderful, smart, caring, kind, and loving man, not the sort of man I will read about in the headlines for doing something mean and heartless. I already had to read about a former student trying to murder his girlfriend, including some graphically sordid details that didn’t need to be in the newspaper. I don’t want to read something like that about you.

On most good days I actually enjoy my job, and I look forward to coming into a school where students, ready to learn or not, will get one little glimpse into the beauty of this world and into the theological concept of grace. My goal, each day, is to teach my students one thing that hadn’t ever thought about before.

I am a pacifist, and even if I wasn’t, I want for you to know that your first response shouldn’t be what can I do back to them, when they’ve done something wrong to you. I should model that a response can be forgiveness, love, and grace, not retribution.

I can control my initial reaction, and I can look you in the eye and tell you, “NEVER do that to me again, because a person’s first instinct is to hit back, or push back, and I don’t want you to get hurt.” I mean that. I really want you think through your actions, your words, your behavior, because I want for you to act with purpose, making good choices, not out of impulse, making poor choices.

You are a kid living with (probably significant) trauma in your life. You don’t need me to add onto that, and I probably didn’t think through this one hard enough when I got angry. Instead of talking through your actions with you and helping you to see how many other good and pure choices you could have made, I spoke harshly, punished you and your classmates who were laughing, and then made you work in silence.

I love you, even when you don’t love yourself. Even when your sole mission is to entertain the other kids in the class with behavior that is the opposite of what you know is right and good, I love you, and I want the best for you. At this point, it feels like I love you more and care about you more, than you love or care about yourself.